ICAO’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme celebrates an important milestone

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ICAO’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) will soon celebrate USOAP-1000, a milestone that marks the significant aviation safety improvements that Member States have achieved. Through this programme, ICAO monitors how Member States have fulfilled their safety oversight obligations. Based on the results of USOAP activities, ICAO can assess a State’s capability to provide safety oversight by evaluating its implementation of the eight critical elements (CEs) of a safety oversight system, including safety-related Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), associated procedures and guidance material.

Launched nearly a quarter of a century ago, the programme, which evolved through several stages into its present state, is recognized globally by States and the industry. Close to 40 oversight activities take place in different States annually. The Programme relies on more than 100 auditors from 60 different nationalities to meet the challenges of this mandate, together being able to operate in either English, Spanish, or French, and each specializing in one or more of the technical areas which USOAP assesses. These areas include Primary Aviation Legislation and Civil Aviation Regulations; Personnel Licensing and Training; Aircraft Operations; Airworthiness; Accident and Incident Investigation; Air Navigation Systems; Aerodrome and Ground Aids; and Safety Management.

USOAP activities include audits, validation missions and State Safety Programme Implementation Assessments (SSPIAs). They are conducted in three modes: on-site, off-site and virtual.

During on-site activities, the ICAO activity team reviews, assesses, and validates submitted evidence in person. Off-site activities are carried out from ICAO headquarters with minimal interaction with the States. Virtual USOAP activities are also performed remotely, using videoconferencing to conduct interviews and discussions and email or other electronic means to exchange and review evidence.

Throughout the pandemic, the Programme relied mainly on off-site and virtual activities to carry on its mandate, seizing the opportunity to innovate and transform itself at the same time. Thus, it demonstrated its adaptability and fortitude in pursuing its objectives to assist States in maintaining their aviation safety oversight systems.

The USOAP-1000 programme will be celebrated in South Africa, with a separate celebration at ICAO headquarters in Montreal. Ceremonies are planned to present USOAP milestones and achievements as well as to recognize the contributions of staff and supporters in the success of the programme. ICAO officials and representatives of ICAO Member States, international organizations, the aviation industry and the media are expected to attend the event.

In a statement on the occasion, Salvatore Sciacchitano, President of the Council of ICAO said that “this achievement, which belongs to countries themselves as much as to ICAO, provides us with an excellent opportunity to celebrate the importance of cooperation and assistance with and through ICAO, and underscores the importance of the USOAP programme’s continuous evolution to meet the changing needs of ICAO Member States in our rapidly innovating air transport environment.”

USOAP-1000 does not only commemorate a historical milestone for the Programme, it is also an outreach activity to promote USOAP at large and encourage States to improve their safety records and level of effective implementation of ICAO’s SARPs.